- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2022

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — This time, there would be no fight on the sideline. No scrap between teammates. No blowout in primetime.

But the Commanders were again embarrassed in Sunday’s 25-10 oss to the Dallas Cowboys as Washington fell to 1-3 on the season. 

The Commanders’ third straight defeat was arguably its worse of the year given that the Cowboys were without top quarterback Dak Prescott (thumb) and Commanders quarterback Carson WentzWashington’s big offseason acquisition — had yet another disastrous performance. 

The defeat comes after the Cowboys blew the Commanders out by 42 points last December, marking a Washington loss in which defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne got into a sideline fight midway through the game. 

Nothing as dramatic happened in the two teams’ first meeting since, but Washington still was a mess. Wentz was just  24 of 41 for 170 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions — good for a measly 4.1 yards per attempt. 

Penalties were also a killer for Washington, with the Commanders penalized 11 times for 136 yards. Two of those calls, in particular, wiped out interceptions that could have changed the momentum of the game. 

Instead, the Commanders fell further behind in the NFC East. The Eagles lead at 4-0, while the Cowboys and Giants both improved to 3-1 on Sunday. Washington is now a distant last as the team has again come out slow under coach Ron Rivera. 

The Commanders came into Sunday’s action determined to start faster. Over the prior two games, Washington had gone into halftime down 46-0 as its offense failed to generate much of anything. The woes caused Rivera to admit that his team was still searching for an offensive identity after a 1-2 start. 

Against the Cowboys, Washington deployed a noticeably different approach. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner dialed up run after run for backs Antonio Gibson, Jonathan Williams and J.D. McKissic. Instead of relying on play action, Turner called for Wentz to throw a variety of quick passes — including screens to wideout Terry McLaurin, whose lack of first-half production through the first three games was glaring.

But familiar problems persisted. Too often, Washington‘s mistakes would overshadow — and negate — positive plays. The Commanders fell into too many third-and-longs because of penalties and other miscues. As a result, the Commanders started the game 0-for-3 on third down. 

Elsewhere, Washington’s defense continued to struggle to contain explosive plays. Entering the weekend, the Commanders had allowed a league-high 17 plays of at least 20 yards. And sure enough, Dallas took advantage: quarterback Cooper Rush found running back Ezekiel Elliott for a 31-yard gain on Dallas’ opening drive.

Still, the defense managed to hold its own. Despite Dallas being able to move the ball, the Commanders held the Cowboys to 53- and 45-yard field goals that kept Washington in the contest. 

Down 6-0, Wentz and Co. finally got going. Behind a steady rushing attack, Washington drove down the field. McKissic’s 33-yard run got Washington into scoring territory, and three plays later, Wentz hit Jahan Dotson with a perfectly placed ball in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. 

The throw was arguably Wentz’s best of the day — but Dallas immediately answered to make Washington’s lead a shortlived one. 

The Cowboys used a 15-play, 75-yard drive to retake the lead. On the go-ahead play, Rush evaded Washington’s pass rush and found an open Michael Gallup for the 9-yard score. Commanders defensive tackle Efe Obada blocked the extra point attempt, though the damage was done: Dallas carried its 12-7 lead into halftime.

In the second half, Wentz was unable to rally Washington. The 29-year-old’s throws were off the mark, and his decision-making remained questionable. Just a few plays after a promising 31-yard completion to Dotson, for example, Wentz committed another intentional grounding penalty — his second of the game — that pushed the Commanders out of the red zone. 

Combined with a false start penalty on tackle Sam Cosmi, Washington went from Dallas’ 19-yard line backed up to the 31 for third-and-22. The Commanders settled for a 45-yard field goal that made it 15-10, blowing a key chance. 

With the offense struggling, the Commanders’ defense fell apart. Rush found success on the deep ball, none more so than when he hit receiver CeeDee Lamb on a 30-yard bomb for a touchdown.

The score gave the Cowboys a double-digit lead, effectively putting the game out of reach for Washington

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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